Moisture content plays a large role in the quality, shelf life, pricing, weight, and ability to process many products. This is important not only to the buyer and seller, but also to the manufacturers, packagers, and users of the products.
Manufacturers try desperately to keep moisture levels under control. Without adequate moisture measurement techniques, they pay in downtime, product loss, extra energy consumption, additional materials, and non-uniform products. For example, in the production of wood panels, the moisture content is of extreme importance. Chips and fibers that are too wet will reduce panel quality, and slower production speeds will occur. If they are too dry, energy is wasted.
What Industries Are Affected?
Lots of industries are affected by moisture. Among those are:
- Forest products
- Pet food
- Renewable energy
- Wood and wood products
Who Decides How Much Moisture Is Too Much?
While industry and trade associations determine acceptable moisture content, it can be monitored by government agencies like the FDA.
What Moisture Measurement Techniques Are Available?
Moisture is measured by the manufacturer. Three common methods are used. Each has their strengths and weaknesses.
- Thermogravimetric measurement is based on moisture content based on the loss of weight on drying. Halogen heaters, microwaves or infrared (IR) heaters dry the sample. The difference between starting weight and ending weight represents moisture content. Unfortunately, there are many problems. This is time-consuming, and the heat may cause decomposition of the samples. Neither the halogen nor IR distinguishes between water and other constituents of the sample that could also evaporate.
- Chemical moisture determination uses a reagent that reacts with water and converts into a non-conductive chemical. This method uses dangerous chemicals and highly skilled personnel to conduct the analysis. Calibration is always required because not all the water in the sample is involved in the reaction.
- Spectroscopic measurement methods include microwave, near infrared (NIR) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). These methods can be complex, require equipment purchases, and are time-consuming because multiple samples are required for calibration.
In recent years, however, NIR has made huge strides in the industry with MoistTech leading the way with the IR-3000 moisture sensor. It features non-drift NIR technology with thousands of samples per second, and no calibration required. This amazing sensor can be mounted above the conveyor belt, before and after dryers, or hand-held for quality control and lab work. It can connect to a computer network for data analysis or to control the moisture process in real-time.
Where Is the Future of Moisture Measurement Going?
In summary, moisture measurement can be performed in a variety of ways. Some require dangerous chemicals and expensive personnel. Others lack in accuracy. Spectroscopy offers the most accurate methods at the best prices. Advances in NIR methods give great promise for the future. For additional information on these, contact MoistTech customer support.